Topics covered in this course are available in the calendar below.

Course Description

This course is designed to provide the students with a survey of Indian Civilization from 2500 BCE until the present. In addition to tracing the major political events, this course will also explore the economic, social, ecological, and cultural developments that accompanied and contributed to the development Indian history. Primary and secondary readings will help students to a better understanding of this unique civilization, as well as shape and improve their skills in analyzing and interpreting historical data. Class discussions are an integral part of this course where students are required to participate and examine the major thematic debates in Indian history with help of coherent and reasoned arguments. Students are expected to attend out-of class lectures and excursions noted on this syllabus. This introductory survey of the history of the South Asian region aims to provide the basis for future reading and research in this area.

Course Requirements and Grading

Two essays (20% each) 40%
Mid-term examination 20%
Final examination 20%
Informal responses 10%
Class participation 10%

Class Participation and Preparation

Attendance in class is mandatory. Only legitimate excuses supported by evidence will be entertained.

You are required to read the assigned pages of the textbook before you come to class. You should also read the assigned primary and secondary readings before any scheduled class discussions. All readings are available at the library, on-line, or from the campus bookstore. The films and documentaries are kept at the MIT Film Office for further viewing. You should read these online and make notes and bring these notes to discussion during class discussions. Students are required to participate in such discussions. There are no wrong answers as long as you support your dialogue with evidence from your readings or general knowledge on the topic.

Essays and Informal Responses

You are required to write two critical essays, based on any two of the books assigned for this course (please see readings for a complete list).

You are also required to fill out a 1-page response sheet after viewing a film shown in class and/or attending any outside lectures pertaining to South Asia.

For more detailed instructions for the essays and informal responses, please see assignments.

Late Submission

Students are required submit papers on time. Late submission will result in lowering of grades. This will be calculated in the following way:

  • One-day late means 1 grade lower. E.g. an A- paper will become a B+ paper.
  • Two days late means 2 grades lower. E.g. an A- paper becomes a B paper.
  • A paper, which is four or more days late, will be given an instant F.


There is a mid-term and a final examination for this course. Each of these examinations will consist of a map exercise, short identifications and a longer essay based on the broad topics in the study sheet.

Academic Dishonesty

Students should familiarize themselves with the Student Code of the University and its sections on academic dishonesty, especially on plagiarism. Plagiarism, which is the unacknowledged use of the ideas or works of another on a paper, will result in an F grade for the paper. Cheating on an examination will result in an F grade for the course and the notification of the Dean of the student's college.


1. Indo-Gangetic civilizations
1 Introduction
2 The Aryan debate
3 Religions and castes
2. The age of epics and the religious heterodoxies
4 The Ramayana and the Mahabharata Class discussion on The Ramayana and primary and secondary sources
5 Regional powers and the making of "Hindu Classical" age
3. Changing medieval territories 700 and 1200 AD
6 Indo-Persian imperial society
7 India under Akbar
4. India and the world trading system
8 The Indian Ocean trade
9 Life and times during the 18th century Class discussion on The Travels of Dean Mahomet
5. Company rule in India 1765-1857
10 From traders to rulers
11 The Sepoy Mutiny
6. The "Jewel in the Crown": India within the British Empire
12 Film: Shatranj Ke Khiladi (The Chess Players)
13 Society, culture and economy of the colony
14 Resistance, reform, and revival
7. The rise of nationalism
15 Early nationalism
16 Gandhi and mass nationalism Class discussion on Gandhi's Hind Swaraj
17 India in the 1940's
8. Partition and independence
18 Why partition?
19 Partition: memories and meanings
20 Mid-term exam
9. Post-colonial nations?
21 Experiments with democracy: Pakistan and Bangladesh
22 The Sri Lankan story
10. Issues in independent India
23 Economic development
24 Caste, community, and sexuality
25 Regionalism vs. nationalism Class discussion on Anatomy of a Confrontation
26 Religion and politics
27 Conclusions